I met Michael White for a coffee recently in his home suburb of Mosman on Sydney’s northern shore.
Michael is currently co-writing a novel with James Patterson, whom Forbes has listed as the highest earning author for the 2009-10 financial year (covered by The Guardian here). This was set up when Michael’s editor at Random House, Beverley Cousins, put the idea to him because his crime thrillers and his scientific bent as demonstrated in his E-Force series made him a good fit for the job. The novel is part of James Patterson’s ‘Private’ series, about a private detective agency. Set in Sydney, it is called Private Sydney. I discussed with Michael how this project is going. A 15 page synopsis is complete and the actual writing has begun. Michael discussed the challenge of matching the writing style of the previous ‘Private’ novels. Michael has already written in a somewhat similar style for his E-Force novels (State of Emergency and Aftershock) under the name Sam Fisher. His Sam Fisher novels were written with each scene being its own short chapter and a higher than average proportion of action and speech over description. However, matching James Patterson’s writing style has involved a close examination of James’s other novels.
Michael discussed his next E-Force novel, Nano, in which terrorists set out to blow up the world’s tallest building in Dubai (not the current tallest building, but a fictional taller one in the near future). Michael’s E-Force novels (and many other Australian novels considered to be action-adventure) are sometimes written off, or praised, for being ‘like a Mathew Reilly novel’. However, the E-Force novels are unique and well crafted novels in their own right; not ‘formulaic genre novels’. Michael compared the global emergency force in the E-Force series as being somewhat like Thunderbirds than a typical stereotype of an Australian action-adventure novel. If you’re not familiar with Thunderbirds, think a high-tech Captain Planet for adults, minus the environmental messages.
Then, of course, there are the novels published as Michael White novels (the trilogy of Equinox, The Medici Secret, and The Borgia Ring, and the recent The Art of Murder). These all feature a historical story thread closely connected to a contemporary story thread, through a mystery spanning both time periods (and some reviewers tend to jump to a Dan Brown comparison, based on a general impression of the plot concept). Michael discussed how, partly due to these comparisons, he struck up a friendship with Dan Brown via email and discovered that Dan had actually read his biography of Leonardo da Vinci when researching for The da Vinci Code.
We spoke about The Australian Literature Review’s upcoming charity anthology (in which Michael has a short story) as well as ereaders, the role they can have in helping world literacy and education and the work worldreader.org are doing in this area. Michael also has a short story in an upcoming AusLit collaborative writing project and we discussed that project and collaborative writing.
We also spoke about writing courses and Michael’s new writing school in partnership with Jonathan Englert, The Sydney Writers Project [discussed in this article], which offers expert lessons/workshops and hands-on support from Michael and Jonathan, both online and face-to-face in Mosman.
So next time you see a Michael White (or Sam Fisher) novel, I recommend having a read of the blurb and browsing inside to see that it’s not ‘another Mathew Reilly or another Dan Brown’. If you like what you read, take his writing course online or in Mosman and learn directly from him.
Coming soon – a week on the Sunshine Coast; if you are a published fiction writer, aspiring to publication or just write fiction for fun on the Sunshine Coast, send a comment or email and you might get a visit in the next 7 days.
The Australian Literature Review